COVID19 2020 is unlike any year, any experience — anything anyone has endured in this century. Mask, no masks, 14 day isolation, human isolation, lack of freedom and anger — human frailties exposed in raw naked fashion. Record unemployment, all aspects of life now deemed political, black lives matter versus all lives matter; a world in total emotional chaos. All humans are yearning for hope, for solace and peace, for our lives to return to how things ‘use to be’ the way we took our lives so shamelessly for granted.
I vowed after the 2016 election to remove myself from all social media during the next presidential election. So my virtual contact with others is nonexistent, which is how I want to live my life in this time. My girlfriend informs me of positive news she feels she can share with me knowing full well that my saturation point of bad news, tragic news, bigoted new is very shallow in these times. So one day she says to me “Wow have you seen the rocks Danielle paints? I love them I’m going to buy one from her.” My thought at that moment was whatever makes anyone feel hope or joy in these times is a valid reason to participate no matter what it is.
When Danielle brought over Tracy’s painted rock she told us about the stress of homeschooling two small children, how her husband had been laid off and she as a stage manager for theatre companies is unemployed; something we both knew since we are both full time performance and publicity photographers.
When Tracy received her rock it brought her incredible joy. I witnessed the smile on her face each time she looked at it, held it and finally found the perfect place for it. I was in awe that a simple painted rock, created by a friend of ours brought so much genuine joy to my partner. I realized that this crisis has made many of us reawaken to the joy of the simple and thoughtful things in life. Something that many of us, me included had taken for granted.
I told Danielle I could not imagine home schooling children, having to work from home, balance my own life and family life in these times. So I asked what she does just for herself. She told me that she receives solace by painting rocks. If even for a brief period of time she focuses on herself, creating items that bring her joy, relaxes her and gives her peace. It was then I thought that I too would like my own rock, one of something very different than Tracy’s. A picture of my electric motorcycle that I had created in a photograph was the thing that would bring me joy. Stupid to some, yet for reasons I will keep to myself, wonderful to me.
I recalled a photo of Toby — a young man who committed suicide in November 2019 which was one of his mother’s favorite photos — all because of his genuine smile. Even though I am in that picture I decided to ask Danielle if she could not only paint the picture of my motorcycle, but of me and Toby. She knows of his story, seemed reticent at first saying that she was better at painting ‘things’ more than faces but would try.
When Danielle left our home I watched as Tracy handled her new rock, caressed it and carried it looking for just the right spot to place it where she would enjoy it. So she decided to place it on our front porch table. Each time she tended to the front garden she would enjoy her new piece of art.
Toby’s mom Aly and I have become friends despite the horrid tragedy of what brought us together. She had mentioned that she loves puzzles and collecting rocks, so I hoped a painted rock of her son would bring two of her favorite things together. And as I watched Tracy hold her rock carefully in the palm of her hand and gaze lovingly at it I thought of Aly. Rocks are very tactile and the warmth of our hands transfers to them becoming as warm as us. So for her to hold an image of her son, one of her favorite images and warm him with her kind hands would be something no mere photo could provide.
Upon receiving Toby’s rock she texted me that she too held her gift in her hands and walked around her home looking for just the right spot. She decided to place it on her desk so she could look at it as she was seated there. And she conveyed that whenever she is at her desk she finds herself subconsciously stroking the rock of Toby.
Being able to provide Danielle just a small stipend of income to paint rocks is inconsequential. But to provide her with a moment to herself, to have her create simple and wonderful items we can hold, can warm with our flesh and enjoy is immense. There is humanity in something made by the hand of another. And I know that I need as much humanity as I can gather right now. Two people benefited from something so simple, yet so intimate to each person.
Like so many others I too am between a rock and a hard place. The hard place is beyond my control, but the rock is something in just the right spot that now brings me much joy. I so hope you too find a rock that brings you joy.
If you want your own bit of joy:
Danielle Combs Owner/Artist — Bananarama Crafts
Foster City, CA 650–740–9921
The rocks are beautiful a d I can fully understand how you get comfort from holding them. Toby looks so happy in the photo a d what an amazing job your friend has done painting the rock. I’m sure Aly will find great comfort looking and stroking it every day. I just wish I was nearer to Aly and Tarn but I live in England, Aly has been a dear friend of mine for a very long time and I love the boys like they were my own. Take care of Aly for me xx
It’s incredible Hilary how such a tragedy has resulted in a new friendship between Aly and myself. Thank you for being her friend.